AUTHOR's Manuscript Poems.
The Author rescueth from Oblivion a valu|able Manuscript Epistle, reflecting great Light on the Judicial Proceedings, in the first Settlement of Massachusetts: A|pologizeth for the Persecutors of his An|cestor.
I HAVE fortunately discovered, pasted on the back of an old Indian deed, a manuscript, which reflects great light upon my ancestor's conduct, and on the transactions of those times; which, accord|ing to the beneficial mode of modern his|torians, I shall transcribe literally.
Page 38 It should be premised, that in the year one thousand six hundred and thirty six, the governour, deputy governour, three as|sistants, and three ministers, among whom was Hugh Peters, afterwards hung and quartered in England, for his adherence to Oliver Cromwell, were entreated, by the Massachusetts' court, to make a draft of laws, agreeable to the word of God, to report to the next general court; and, in the interim, the magistrates were directed to determine causes according to the laws, then established, and where no laws exist|ed, then as near to the word of God as they could.
(Indorsed) BROTHER UNDERHILL'S EPISTLE. To Master HANSERD KNOLLYS—these Greeting.
Worthee and Beloved,
Remembrin my kind love to Mr. Hil|ton, I now send you some note of my Page 39 tryalls at Boston.—Oh that I may come out of this, and al the lyke tryalls, as goold sevene times puryfyed in the fur|nice.
After the rulers at Boston had fayled to fastenne what Roger Harlakenden was pleased to call the damning errours of Anne Hutchinson upon me, I looked to be sent away in peace; but Governour Winthrop sayd I must abide the examin|ing of ye church, accordingly, on the thyrd day of ye weeke, I was convened be|fore them.—Sir Harry Vane, the gover|nour, Dudley, Haines, with masters Cot|ton, Shepherd, and Hugh Peters present, with others.—They prepounded that I was to be examined, touching a certain act of adultery I had committed, with one mistress Miriam Wilbore, wife of Sam|uel Wilbore, for carnally looking to luste after her, at the lecture in Boston, when master Shepherd expounded—This mis|tress Miriam hath since been dealte with, Page 40 for coming to that lecture with a pair of wanton open workt gloves, slit at the thumbs and fingers, for the purpose of tak|ing snuff; for, as master Cotton observed, for what end should those vaine open|nings be, but for the intent of taken fil|thy snuff; and he quoted Gregory Naz|ianzen upon good works.—Master Peters said, that these opennings were Satan's port holes of firy temptatione. Mistress Miriam offerd in excuse of her vain attire, that she was newle married, and appeared in her bridall arraye. Master Peters said, that marriage was the ocasion that the Devil tooke to caste his firy darts, and lay his pit falls of temptation, to catche frale flesh and bloode. She is to be further dealt with for taken snuff. How the use of the good creature tobaccoe can be an offence I cannot see—Oh my beloved, how these prowde pharisees labour aboute the minte and cummine. Governour Win|throp inquired of mee, if I confessed the Page 41 matter. I said I wished a coppy of there charge.—Sir Harry Vane said, there was no neede of any coppie, seeing I knew I was guiltee. Charges being made out where there was an uncertantie whether the accused was guiltie or not, and to lighten the accused into the nature of his cryme, here was no need. Master Cot|ton said, did you not look upon mistress Wilbore? I confessd that I did. He said then you are verelie guiltie, brother Un|derhill. I said nay, I did not look at the woman lustfully.—Master Peters said, why did you not look at sister Newell or sister Upham? I said, verelie they are not desyrable women, as to temporale graces.—Then Hugh Peters and al cryed, it is e|nough, he hath confessed, and passed to excommunication. I sayd where is the law by which you condemne me. Win|throp said, there is a committee to draft laws. Brother Peters are you not on that committee, I am sure you have maide a law Page 42 againste this cryinge sin. Hugh Peters replyed that he had such a law in his minde, but had not writtene it downe. Sir Harry Vane said, it is sufficient. Haynes said, ay, law enough for antinomi|ans. Master Cotton tooke a bible from his coate and read whoso looketh on a woman, &c.
William Blaxton * hath been with me privelie, he weeps over the cryinge sins of the times, and expecteth soone to goe out Page 43 of the jurisdiction. I came from Eng|land, sais he, because I did not like the lords bishops, but I have yet to praye to be delivered from the lords brother|enne.
Salute brother Fish, and others, who havinge been disappointed of libertie in this wilderness are ernestlie lookinge for a better countre.
Your felloe traveller in this vale of tears. JOHN UNDERHILL.
Boston,28th 4th month, 1638
It is with great reluctance I am induc|ed to publish this letter, which appears to reflect upon the justice of the proceed|ings of our forefathers. I would rather, like the sons of Noah, go backwards and cast a garment over our fathers' naked|ness; but the impartiality of a historian, and the natural solicitude to wipe the stains from the memory of my honoured Page 44 ancestor, will excuse me to the candid. Whoever reflects upon the piety of our forefathers, the noble unrestrained ardour, with which they resisted oppression in England, relinquished the delights of their native country, crossed a bois|terous ocean, penetrated a savage wil|derness, encountered famine, pestilence, and Indian warfare, and transmitted to us their sentiments of independence, that love of liberty, which under God en|abled us to obtain our own glorious free|dom, will readily pass over those few dark spots of zeal, which clouded their ris|ing sun.